Strategies for Pain Assessment in Adult Patients With Delirium: A Scoping Review

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Journal Article
Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 2019, 58 (3), pp. 487 - 502.e11
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© 2019 American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine Context: Pain and delirium are highly prevalent in the same patient groups. Disturbances in attention, awareness, and cognition are characteristics for delirium and can compromise pain assessment. Objectives: The aim of this review was to examine and map models and understandings of pain and delirium as well as pain assessment instruments and strategies for adult patients with delirium. Methods: A scoping review of all publications that reported on pain assessment in adult patients with delirium was conducted with no time and language constraints, searching Medline, CINAHL, Scopus, Embase, and PsycINFO and systematically assessing for inclusion. Standardized data extraction and a narrative synthesis followed. Results: A total of 90 publications were included in the final analysis. Despite being recommended for practice, no evidence for the use of self-report or behavioral pain assessment instruments in patients with delirium was identified, with the exception of limited evidence for the validity of the Critical Care Pain Observation Tool and Behavioral Pain Scale in delirious intensive care patients. Proxy ratings of pain and comprehensive pain assessment hierarchies were also recommended, but not supported by evidence. Current models and/or understandings of pain and delirium were not applied in most publications. Conclusion: The current literature is insufficient to guide clinical practice in pain assessment in patients with delirium. Future research will be needed to address the validity of existing pain assessment instruments, apply theoretical and conceptual understandings of pain and delirium, and build on prior studies to close evidence gaps.
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